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CSHP AT-A-GlanceConcept to ActionResourcesLinksNewsletter
Concept to Action Making Health Academic Home Concept to Action

Action Steps

Comprehensive School Health Education

School Counseling, Psychological, and Social Services

Healthy School Environment

Family and Community Involvement

School Health Services

School Nutrition

Physical Education

Health Promotion for Staff

Action Steps for Implementing School Nutrition Services

Everyone has a responsibility to promote good eating habits among school-aged children.  With an increase in obesity, it is essential that schools become places for promoting healthy eating.  Recent research shows that the number of overweight children aged 6 to 11 years has increased from 7% in 1976-1980 to 13% in 1999.  Among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years it has increased from 5% to 14%.1  These findings are important because obesity is linked to an increase in Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke, certain types of cancers, and number of other illnesses.2

Today, it isn’t enough that schools provide students with proper nutritional guidance.  Schools are under increased pressure to have students perform at a high academic level.  Hungry, malnourished children have a harder time focusing on basic core subjects. Poor nutrition, combined with a lack of physical activity, can affect a child’s intellectual performance.  Participation in a School Breakfast Program can improve academic, behavioral and emotional functioning, and reduce tardiness and absenteeism.3  Thus, schools need to create an environment that allows for a child’s overall academic success and providing school meals can be one part of this solution. 

Below, you will find action steps to incorporate healthy eating into a coordinated school health program and links to useful websites and documents.

Actions for Schools and Districts

  • Establish a school health or nutrition advisory committee to assess school nutrition needs and develop a strategic plan for addressing those needs
  • Establish a school breakfast program to complement the school lunch program
  • Ensure adequate funding from local, state and federal sources for healthy school meal programs
  • Establish appropriate qualifications for school food service staff
  • Implement nutrition education from preschool through secondary school as part of a sequential, comprehensive school health using fun, interactive learning strategies
  • Have counselors and school nurses provide information and support students on issues such as healthy body image, weight management and eating disorders
  • Coordinate nutrition activities between food services staff and health and physical education teachers
  • Involve families and community organizations in policy development and program planning to ensure that school meal options are culturally sensitive and special dietary needs are included
  • Replace foods of minimal nutritional value in vending machines with more nutritional options
  • Establish policies to limit access to vending machines, snack bars, school stores and other food outlets on school property
  • Urge parent associations and student clubs to sell healthy foods or nonfood items for fund-raising activities
  • Allow sufficient time for meals
  • Provide students with adequate and pleasant dining space
  • Conduct an ongoing assessment and evaluation of the effectiveness of school nutrition efforts and use the results for planning

Actions for State and National Organizations and Colleges and Universities

  • Develop or disseminate behaviorally oriented nutrition education curricula, frameworks, or standards that meet the criteria set forth by CDC
  • Develop and distribute position papers on healthy school food environments
  • Hold conference sessions and symposia on issues related to school nutrition
  • Advocate for policies that enable healthy food environments with policymakers and opinion leaders
  • Research links between nutrition and academic achievement
  • Establish educational qualifications for the certification of school district nutrition directors and school food service managers that are commensurate with the qualifications for other school personnel with similar levels of responsibility
  • Review policy initiatives using evidence from academic literature
  • Support policy initiatives that promote healthy eating choices wherever food is available in schools
  • Offer or enable challenge grants for schools that increase the proportion of nutritious foods served on campus
  • Enable healthy food environments in your own organization or college or university

Actions for Families and Communities

  • Participate in an Action for Healthy Kids State Team.
  • Join a school health advisory group to assess school nutrition needs and policies
  • Provide culturally appropriate, positive suggestions for nutritious foods to food service managers
  • Advocate for courses in nutrition, health and physical education to school administrators and board members
  • Write letters to the media, make phone calls and give presentations about the importance of a healthy school environment
  • Encourage schools to offer and students to participate in the school lunch and breakfast program
  • Urge parent associations and student clubs to sell healthy foods or nonfood items for fund-raising activities
  • Practice healthy eating by eating with students to service as role models in the school dining areas
  • Provide students with a variety of nutritious foods if students bring bag lunches from home

1Journal of School Health Vol. 71, No. 7, SHPPS 2000: School Health Policies and Programs Study
2Call to Action TEAM Nutrition
3Action for Healthy Kids Fact Sheet Nutrition, Physical Activity and Achievement

Action steps were updated (2002) and adapted from the USDA's TEAM Nutrition Call to Action: Healthy School Nutrition Environments, Changing the Scene: Improving the School Nutrition Environment, Action for Healthy Kids' Fact Sheet: Nutrition, Physical Activity and Achievement, and CDC's Guidelines for School Health Programs to Promote Lifelong Healthy Eating.

Adapted by permission of the publisher from Marx, E. & Wooley, S. F. (Eds.) (1998). Health is academic: A guide to coordinated school health programs. New York: Teachers College Press. 1998 by Education Development Center, Inc. All rights reserved.

For a more detailed discussion of School Nutrition Services, see the book Health Is Academic.


Call to Action: Healthy School Nutrition Environments, TEAM Nutrition, USDA

Changing the Scene: Improving the School Nutrition Environment, TEAM Nutrition, USDA

Fact Sheet: Nutrition, Physical Activity and Achievement, Action for Healthy Kids

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, USDA

Food Guide Pyramid, USDA

Guidelines for School Health Programs to Promote Lifelong Healthy Eating, CDC

SHI: School Health Index, CDC

Related Links

Action for Healthy Kids

American Cancer Society

American Dietetic Association

American Heart Association

American School Food Service Association

Food and Nutrition Center

Food Research and Action Center

Healthy School Meals Resource Center

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

TEAM Nutrition

For other organizations that support school health, click on Links.


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